CLE Canister

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CLE Canisters displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, along with a Corgi lightweight, folding motorcycle that could be carried inside one (2010)
CLE Canisters about to be loaded onto a Handley Page Halifax bomber of 148 Squadron, which will drop them on Yugoslav Partisans. Brindisi, Italy, c. 1944

The CLE Canister was a standardized cylindrical container used by the British during World War 2 to airdrop supplies to troops on the ground. The name initially derived from the Central Landing Establishment that developed them, although this was later backronymed to Container Light Equipment.[1]

Initially, the canisters were of wood and metal construction. The Mark 1 canister weighted around 46 kilograms (101 lb) empty and 159 kilograms (351 lb) when filled. It was cylindrical, 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) long and 40 centimetres (16 in) in diameter. The Mark 1T canister was similar except it was of metal construction and slightly heavier, weighing 61 kilograms (134 lb) empty and again 159 kilograms (351 lb) when filled. The Mark III canister was similar, but slightly longer 1.8 metres (5.9 ft).[1]

One end of the canister carried a parachute pack. The parachute was deployed by a static line, which opened a pilot parachute, which in turn opened the main canopy. The other end of the canister was fitted with a pan-like structure that cushioned the impact of landing.[2] The canisters' attachment system allowed them to be carried from the bomb-racks of bomber aircraft.[3]

The canisters could contain food, ammunition, weapons or other equipment - the Mark 1 canister could carry 12 rifles and 1000 rounds of ammunition.[4] A cylindrical fuel can was also developed to fit the CLE Canister, with a canister able to accommodate three of the cans.[5] Some loads, such as radios, weren't dropped in CLE Canisters and required special containers to carry and protect them.[6]

Prepacked canisters were allocated code numbers according to their load; a unit requiring resupply simply had to communicate the code and the number of canisters required. The type of load was indicated by the colour of the parachute, although the colours used were periodically changed to confuse the enemy.[3] During Operation Market Garden, for example, the colours used were red for ammunition, green for rations, white for medical supplies, blue for fuel and yellow for communication equipment. [7]

As well as World War II, the canisters saw use in Operation Musketeer - the 1956 Anglo-French invasion of the Suez Canal zone.[1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Baker, Jon. "Container Light Equipment". ParaData. 
  2. ^ Dennis Williams (15 July 2008). Stirlings in Action With the Airborne Forces: Air Support to Special Forces and the SAS During WW11. Pen and Sword. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-1-84415-648-1. 
  3. ^ a b Rebecca Skinner (20 January 2015). British Paratrooper 1940–45. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-1-4728-0514-0. 
  4. ^ D. J. Sutton (1984). The Story of the Royal Army Service Corps and Royal Corps of Transport, 1945-1982. L. Cooper. p. 530. ISBN 978-0-436-50606-2. 
  5. ^ "British Airborne Fuel Can". Summer Of 44. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ Steer (2000), p.97
  7. ^ Steer (2000), p.124-125